San Diego police officer nicknamed “Corrupto” was charged yesterday with using his position to pass information about a narcotics investigation to drug-trafficking suspects.
Tapia indictment (PDF)
Officer Juan Hurtado Tapia, 38, was arraigned on federal charges of obstruction, fraud and making false statements, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Tapia on Tuesday at the downtown federal building. He remained in federal custody yesterday, said David Ramirez, San Diego police executive assistant chief.
Ramirez said Tapia's police powers were revoked in August, and he was placed on unpaid leave yesterday.
“We were aware he was being looked at as a possible suspect in this case,” Ramirez said.
Tapia worked as a patrol officer in the Southern Division for his 7½ years with the department, Ramirez said. In 2005, Tapia won an award from the county Auto Theft Advisory Committee for recovering stolen cars.
A federal complaint says Tapia used a police computer to run criminal history checks for suspects in a drug-trafficking ring. It also alleges that he warned at least one suspect against trying to cross the border from Mexico one night.
San Diego police and the DEA were running separate heroin-sales investigations when they realized they were after some of the same men, the federal complaint says. The police investigation started in October. Federal authorities arrested one man, Adrian Jovan Rocha, in April on suspicion of trying to bring 14 pounds of methamphetamine into the United States.
Working together, the two agencies made drug buys and used court-authorized wiretaps to listen to dealers arranging heroin and meth deliveries. In phone conversations in May, two men talked of getting information on Rocha from a San Diego officer referred to as “Corrupto,” the complaint says.
On May 9, the complaint says, investigators learned that a San Diego patrol officer named Juan, while assigned to the Border Crimes Task Force, had seen an organizational chart naming suspects in the heroin investigation. One suspect worked for a business run by Tapia's family.
Agents arrested four trafficking suspects – William Jesus Amezcua-Flores, Alexander Florencio Mayorquin, Raul Rodriguez-Orozco and Juan Ramon Perez-Mascurro – in July. They were indicted in August and face pretrial hearings Sept. 22, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Smith Jr. said.
FBI agents questioned Tapia in July, and he denied warning Mayorquin not to cross the border, the complaint says. It also says Tapia did not consider his discussion of information with Amezcua-Flores to be a warning.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo S. Papas set a preliminary hearing for Tapia on Sept. 16.